Abuja — The House of Representatives Thursday passed a resolution urging the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to ban the use of the United States' dollar and other foreign currencies for local transactions.
The resolution followed a motion brought before the House by Hon. Nadu Karibo, a member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Bayelsa State.
In the lead debate, Karibo said the dollar was fast displacing the naira as a means of exchange in Nigeria.
He said major hotels, elite schools and supermarkets now prefer to be paid in dollars rather than accept the naira.
He argued that the trend of using foreign currencies instead of the local currency for the payment of domestic transactions was weakening the naira and should be stopped before the local currency becomes worthless.
"There's a growing trend in the use of some foreign currencies, especially the US dollar, for the payment of school fees, hotel bills, real estate, rents and purchase in bars, nightclubs, luxury goods shops in Nigeria.
"Every country has its currency, which serves as a means of exchange, a symbol of identity, a source of pride and a sign of fiscal independence and economic stability.
"Without equivocation, the naira is Nigeria's currency and the only means of exchange for local and domestic transactions known to the law in Nigeria," he said.
According to the lawmaker, the trend has a negative impact on the local economy as it has led to a high demand in Nigeria for foreign currencies, especially the U.S. dollar, thereby contributing to the weakening of the naira against other currencies.
Karibo said in other countries such as South Africa, Ghana and the United States, the naira is not accepted, stressing that transactions in those countries are done in their local currencies.
The debate on the matter took off on a positive note with some of the lawmakers lending their voices in support of it.
Deputy Chairman, House Committee on Judiciary, Hon. Arua Arunsi (PDP/ Abia), described the motion as timely, but observed that there was the need for the House to take the issue beyond the realm of a motion.
Arunsi suggested that a bill should be presented on the matter to make it illegal for anyone to use the dollar as a means of exchange in local transactions in Nigeria.
Minority Whip of the House, Hon. Samson Osagie (ACN/Edo), argued that it would be impossible for the government to ban the use of dollar for local transactions because of the free market economy operational in Nigeria.
Osagie said government could curb the growing influence of foreign currencies on the economy by strengthening the local currency and stopping its abuse by citizens.
According to him, the abuse of the naira is largely responsible for many Nigerians resorting to the use of the dollar.
Chairman, House Committee on Niger Delta, Hon. Warman Ogoriba (PDP/ Bayelsa), said it made a lot of sense to insist that local transactions should be done in the local currency.
According to Ogoriba, in a country like South Africa, you cannot pay for goods and services with foreign currencies as the people will insist on converting the foreign currency to the Rand, the South African currency.
However, a former Chairman, House Committee on Banking and Currency, Hon. Ogbuefi Ozomgbachi, said there was no need to place a ban on the use of foreign currencies for local transactions because Nigeria runs a liberal economy.
He explained that Nigeria has established the export processing and free trade zones and the international financial centre and these institutions allow a free flow of foreign currencies into the economy.
He suggested amending the Legal Tender Act, which recognises the naira as the legal tender in Nigeria, to remedy whatever bad effect the use of foreign currency in local transaction is having on the Nigerian economy.
When it appeared that the debate was tilting towards a defeat of the motion, Karibo got the leave of the House for a right of reply at the end of which the motion was passed in a unanimous voice vote.